Dept embarks on measles awareness campaign

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pretoria - The Department of Health has embarked on a campaign to raise awareness about measles amid the increase in the number of cases reported.

The country has so far confirmed a total of 468 reported cases since March/April this year with Gauteng being most affected with 422 cases confirmed.

According to the department, primary and tertiary school children in Gauteng schools have received an additional dose of the measles vaccine between 17-28 August.

The department appealed to parents to sign the measles vaccine consent forms as it is against policy to vaccinate without such consent.

"The experience so far has been parents not signing such forms making it difficult for health care workers to vaccinate," Health Spokesperson Fidel Hadebe said.

He warned that failure to vaccinate may lead to possible complications of measles such as pneumonia, ear infections, blindness, diarrhoea and even brain damage.

The department is working closely with provincial health departments and districts, National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) as well as the World Health Organisation as part of its response.

The situation even in provinces least affected is being closely monitored, Hadebe said.

He advised members of the public to consult a health care worker if they suspect that they have symptoms consistent with those of measles.

Measles is one of the most dangerous diseases of childhood and accounts for nearly 777 000 deaths worldwide, with 452 000 cases coming from Africa.

Previously, most cases of measles occurred in children under the age of one year, but more and more cases are now occurring in older children and even adults.

Measles is a highly infectious disease that causes high fever, fine red rash, cold/flu-like symptoms including cough, runny nose and watery red eyes.

The disease can have complications, including pneumonia (infection of the lungs), infection of the middle ear which can cause deafness, ulceration of the eyes which can cause blindness, malnutrition and brain damage and even death.